Forestville Teachers Continue to Be Disrespected and Devalued After Strike Vote and Fact-Finding Hearing
By Erik Olson Fernández
On Monday, June 24th, Forestville teachers made their case at a Fact-Finding hearing, the last step in the legal process before a strike, while the District continued its questionable practice of hiring attorneys and outside consultants to find ways to not give the sixteen teachers in the district respect and a living wage. Attached is our Fact-Finding presentation which clearly shows that:
The Forestville Union School District’s presentation, made by hired consultant John Gray, the state-wide President of School Services of California, did not adequately respond to any of these key issues. After the Fact-Finding hearing itself, mediation attempts by the neutral fact-finder failed as the District’s proposals continued to be disrespectful toward the teachers.
The District’s bargaining team clearly is not listening. Thus, we, the teachers, strongly urge the District to consider replacing the current board members on the District bargaining team with other board members.
The current board members, Josh Nultemeier and Jean Bullard on the bargaining team, appear to have simply been a rubber stamp for administration and outgoing Superintendent Phyllis Parisi who is not well respected by the teachers and the community.
Our hope is that we can avoid a strike in the new school year, with new, better informed board members and a new Superintendent. Several other Sonoma County school districts, including districts neighboring Forestville like Oak Grove, Sebastopol, Gravenstein along with the Sonoma County Office of Education, have already demonstrated this year that a multi-year agreement that addresses these critical teacher concerns is possible. In order to recruit and retain the best educators for our students these kinds of agreement are necessary.
According to the California Department of Education’s 2017-2018 Salary Report based on California districts’ J-90 forms, the statewide average teacher pay was $80,680. At Forestville, the average wage for teachers was $60,632, which is more than 33% below the statewide average despite Sonoma County being recognized as one of the least affordable counties in the state for educators.
As third grade teacher and FTA Bargaining Co-chair Anne Fox said, “You can’t put students first if you put teachers last.”
Only Kashia, Horicon, and Guerneville have lower average teacher salaries in the county of 39 school districts listed in the CDE salary report at https://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/fd/cs/documents/j90summary1718.pdf (pages 64-66). Teachers must be a priority in the budget and in negotiations as having financially overwhelmed teachers in our classrooms helps no one, especially our students.
Prior to declaring impasse, the District proposed a zero percent salary increase to teachers. To add insult to injury, this zero percent proposal was delivered by an outside, contracted attorney (without the Superintendent) who has been involved for more than a year in these negotiations.
This is significant as there are only 16 teachers and a 1% increase would equate to $10,382 based on 2017-18 numbers from the district. Yet, the district finished 2017-18 with $1,829,214 (43.63%) in Total Unrestricted Ending Balance Funds (Fund 01) and budgeted even more for 2018-19 at $1,953,362 (47.35%).
The required state minimum reserve is 5% and the board has a policy to be at 15%. The District is violating its own policy by holding on to 43.63% in Total Unrestricted monies. Salaries for the entire teaching staff in 2017-18 only amounted to $1,038,282, about half of what was budgeted in Total Unrestricted Ending Balance (Fund 01) for 2018-19.
In the enclosed Fact-Finding presentation, you will see that the percentage of the budget going to Certificated Bargaining Unit Salaries has been declining every year for the last five years from 37.66% in 2013-14 to 24.76% in 2017-18.
This is despite the fact that Total Revenues have been increasing from $3,773,740 in 2013-14 to $4,672,110 in 2017-18 and Total Unrestricted Ending Balance in Fund 01 has increase from $713,524 (19.47%) in 2013-14 to $1,829,214 (43.63%) in 2017-18.
Another area of concern is the increasing of Services & Other Operating Expenses, which includes attorney and consultant fees, over the last five years without question from the district. This budget category has increased from 13% ($476,379) of the budget in 2013-14 to 21.63% ($907,075) in 2017-18.
This budget category is now close to what is being spent on the entire teaching staff salaries ($1,038,282 or 24.76%). Teachers are clearly not a priority when you look at the Unaudited Actual financial report filed by the district with the state and the county office of education in September 2018.